by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, October 26, 2008
Kazakhstan’s success story has been rightly praised in both the East and in the West. Under the leadership of its President, Nursultan Nazerbayev, this leading political and economic power in Central Asia has made the transition from a Soviet-style economy to a modern social market economy, without falling into the excesses of neoliberal policies, and without relinquishing its national sovereignty.
That notwithstanding, it has not been able escape the ravages of the current financial crisis which has swept across the globe. Now the country’s leadership is facing the third major upheaval since the country declared independence in 1991, — after the breakdown of the Soviet system and trade relations in 1992, and the crisis that hit in 1998. Given its full integration into regional economic, political and security arrangements, and its excellent relations with the West–especially Germany–, there is good reason to hope that it can engage with its neighbors and allies, in developing the means to protect its achievements and contribute to shape a new financial and economic order.
The matter is high on the agenda of the Kazakh political elite. It took center stage at an international conference held in Astana on October 16, in which this author participated. The original title of the conference, organized by the Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security of Mazhilis (Parliament) of the Republic of Kazakhstan, had been “A Stable Kazakhstan in an Unstable World,” but in the weeks preceeding the conference, as the world banking system proceeded to blow apart, the title was redefined as “New Challenges and Kazakhstan’s Contribution to Stability and Security.” In his keynote address, Nurbakh Rustemov, Chairman of the hosting parliamentary committee, used no euphemisms to address reality; he bluntly stated that the world financial crisis was leading to a “misunderstanding” among geopolitical forces, and carried the danger of a direct threat to humanity, through hunger and poverty.(1) He called for uniting forces internationally, to overcome the financial-economic crisis, which he dubbed the “number one priority.” Rustemov mentioned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which Kazakhstan is a founding member, as well as the OSCE, which Kazakhstan will chair beginning 2010, as bodies his government would like to utilize to find solutions to the crisis. Two concrete means that his country could use to impact the crisis, would be in securing energy resources, and providing grain and meat exports to alleviate food shortages. In addition, he emphasized the importance of strengthening the regulatory role of the state, since the system “can not work alone.” Multilateral and bilateral treaty agreements should be pursued to face the immediate challenges.